How emotional abuse silences women
Published On April 10, 2023 » 1005 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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REPORTS of gender-based violence (GBV) have continued to be a source of concern looking at the number of cases reported by the Zambia Police.
Research shows that more than a third of all women and girls in Zambia have experienced physical violence in their lives, and 17 per cent of them have experienced sexual violence.
Sadly, in some instances, women have been blamed to provoke the abuse that continues to affect our communities and because of our patriarchal system, they remain silent.
Men too experience all forms of abuse but, in terms of gender vulnerability women are usually victims of all forms of violence.
However, what many people witness is the physical abuse because it is visible as it presents with signs such as, scars,bruises, burn marks, and many others.
And so, for many others, physical abuse is the first thing that comes to mind when a person hears the word abuse thus, psychological abuses usually go unnoticed.
It is important to understand that no type of abuse is worse than another because all forms are damaging, and present with a severe impact on the victims.
Psychologists suggest that, If one is having trouble discerning whether their relationship is abusive, it is important to think about how their interactions make them feel.
Although emotional abuse may not lead to physical injury, it is just as damaging as the physical and sexual abuse that victim’s experience.
This silence resulting from emotional abuse is not the ordinary silent treatment where a victim takes a stance from usual relationship conversation and interaction with their partner.
It is the emotional abuse that involves controlling another person by using emotions to criticise, embarrass, shame, blame, or manipulate a partner.
In certain instances, some perpetrator may use insults, humiliate the victim and instill fear, so that they have control over them.
This extremely painful
silence has made women victims feel they cannot talk about it or have been told to be silent, speak less, act less, do less, the better you are as an African woman in a marriage or relationship.
How emotional abuse silences women
The situation is worse because matters of sexuality and relationships are considered a private matter in African societies as this will be washing dirty linen in public even when a woman questions.
Because of entrenched gender roles everything has been seen to revolve around the male gender, hence silencing the woman.
Emotional abuse can be identified when one observes a repetitive pattern of abuse words, bullying behaviours that wear down someone’s self-esteem.
Emotional abuse can present with a person placing unrealistic expectations on their partner such as many unnecessary demands.
It is no secret that some women are in relationships with men who are economically dependent on them, threatening to leave them by placing unnecessary demands and because they have invested all their emotions in this relationship, they remain silent.
Similarly I have received messages of concern, on how some women who are economically dependent on their partners are frequently humiliated.
Perpetrators of emotional abuse usually take pleasure in having power over others or seeing them suffer and take advantage of their vulnerability.
I have watched with concern how different marriage counselor’s on one television channel show marriage counselors counseling young women entering marriage to listen to everything that their partner says as that is part of respect.
Perhaps we need to raise more awareness on GBV among couples entering into marriage and incorporate it during couple’s counseling, if we want to see more women live in safe and healthy homes.
Counseling couples as they prepare for marriage is important as it prepares them for other events that may require them to make some adjustments, such as, knowing how to respond to their feelings, desires, dreams and goals while in marriage.
Some few years ago, I participated in a programme that counseled women during antenatal and testing them for HIV/AIDS and other healthy measures during pregnancy was routine.
Surprisingly, women who were tested positive said they could not be on antiretroviral (ART) because their partners will either blame them for accepting to undergo a test or even chase them from their matrimonial home.
Others, who were asked to come back with their partners after testing positive, openly said their partners refused to accompany them to the hospital for testing.
It is during moments like this, when these expecting mothers have to make choices that will ensure safe delivery for their unborn babies and also secure their general health as they try to contain the emotional abuse.
One psychosocial counselor observes that many women sadly cannot identify with emotional abuse or love, because their abusers are cunning and present them with gifts to silence them.
Since emotional abuse is often subtle, when women are not allowed to have a different opinion concerning important matters in a relationship, they choose to remain silent.
“Many victims of emotional abuse usually may not understand how to respond to what they experience and end up thinking it is their own failing.
In extreme cases, no matter how much help family members or counselors may want to offer, the impact of abuse is so intense that living with an abusive partner may seem normal with them.” She said
Staying in an emotionally abusive relationship has long lasting effects on one’s physical and mental health which can lead into depression and other long term psychological problems.
We can only address any form of violence and abuse when we all learn that everyone in a relationship deserves to be treated with respect and kindness.
Emotional abuse may not leave physical scars, but it certainly can leave damages that last a lifetime hence, the need to educate partners about having a healthy relationship. For comment: jessiengm@ gmailcom or stronger together on FB.

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